BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight yesterday included a feature asking “Is it time to rethink the way we deal with refugees?” The programme spoke to Syrian refugees in Denmark who want to be able to contribute and give back to their host country – to say thank you and to be self-reliant – rather than taking and being seen only as a burden. The programme also spoke to Professor Alexander Betts about his new book Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (co-authored with Professor Paul Collier, Blavatnik School of Government).
Betts refers to his research in Uganda where refugees are allowed to work and where many have set up businesses that employ others, including host nationals. From research in Europe, he says, the tragedy is that most Syrians surveyed were unemployed despite many having a university education.
Discussing the case of Jordan, Betts states: “Major host countries like Jordan face a real development challenge with the numbers of refugees they host… But Jordan has taken a very pioneering approach. It’s now aiming to try and offer work permits to 200,000 Syrians – with support, with tariff-free access to the European Union in certain export categories, with investment from the World Bank, it’s trying to offer work permits and it’s making a difference… And business investment is key. Companies like Ikea and Walmart have invested in the supply chain in Jordan to make that possible.”